The iPhone XS and iPhone XR launched at the same time in September 2018, although the XR only became available later on. While the XR is the more colourful option, the two are hard to tell apart on first glance.
Here we explore why there’s a £250/$250 price difference between the two phones and help you work out which you should buy.
For more detailed analysis of each, check out our review of the iPhone XS and iPhone XR.
Price and availability
The iPhone XS is available to buy now from Apple and shipped from 21 September 2018.
It costs from £999/$999 for the 64GB model. Check out the best contract prices here in our iPhone XS deals article.
The iPhone XR is also available to buy now and costs from £749/$749 for the 64GB model. Check out our roundup of the best iPhone XR deals.
Maths fans will have quickly twigged that the anniversary of these devices’ launch is fast approaching. September 2019 will see the launch of new iPhones, and this may see the XS and XR discontinued or drop in price. In other words, now is not a great time to buy.
Design and build
At first glance the iPhone XS and iPhone XR look the same save for the colourful hues of the XR. But they are quite different on closer inspection.
The iPhone XS is the exact same dimensions as the now-discontinued iPhone X. It has a 5.8in display but thanks to the edge-to-edge notch design is still a one-handed phone for a lot of people.
Although it’s cheaper, the iPhone XR is larger with a 6.1in display. Its bezels are larger too, but has the notch of the iPhone XS. The XR comes in six different vibrant colours, whereas the iPhone XS is either silver, space grey or gold.
The more expensive iPhone XS gains a stainless steel rim between the glass sandwich of its screen and rear compared to the aluminium rim of the iPhone XR – the latter’s similar to the rim of the iPhone 7 or 8.
The dual cameras of the iPhone XS are not on the XR. Instead there’s a single camera on the back that is less of a bump, but still a bump.
Overall, the iPhone XR is 8.3mm thick, slightly chunkier than the 7.7mm iPhone XS.
The iPhone XS and iPhone XR don’t look dissimilar, but the screen size, rim material, colour options and bezel size are the main aesthetic differences.
Features and specs
Before we highlight the biggest specs differences, here is a comparison of the core features of the iPhone XS and iPhone XR:
Here is a comparison of the iPhone XS and XR:
|iPhone XS||iPhone XR|
|iOS||iOS 12||iOS 12|
|Colours||Gold, silver, Space Grey||White, black, blue, yellow, coral, red|
|Display||5.8in Super Retina Display (2436×1125, 458ppi) OLED||6.1in Liquid Retina Display (1792×828, 326ppi) LCD|
|Processor||Apple A12 Bionic||Apple A12 Bionic|
|Rear camera||12Mp wide-angle, f/1.8, OIS + 12Mp telephoto, f/2.4, OIS, optical zoom, 10x digital zoom, Portrait Lighting, Portrait Mode, quad-LED flash||12Mp f/1.8, OIS, 5x digital zoom, Portrait Lighting, Portrait Mode, quad-LED flash|
|Front camera||7Mp FaceTime HD, f/2.2, 1080p video||7Mp FaceTime HD, f/2.2, 1080p video|
|Video recording||4K at 24/30/60fps, 1080p slo-mo at 240fps||4K at 24/30/60fps, 1080p slo-mo at 240fps|
|Biometric security||Face ID||Face ID|
|Dimensions||70.9 x 143.6 x 7.7mm||75.7 x 150.9 x 8.3mm|
|Price||£999/£1,149/£1,349 (same in $)||£749/£799/£899 (same in $)|
|Buy SIM-free||Order Now||Order Now|
|Buy on contract||Order Now||Order now|
Apple has made a big deal of the fact both the iPhone XS and XR have the same A12 Bionic processor. This is good if you want to spend less on your phone, and can pick up the iPhone XR and it’ll run just as smooth with the same silicon inside.
A big difference is the screen tech. The iPhones XS has an OLED display that is more vibrant when compared side by side with the iPhone XR, which has an LCD display.
OLEDs are capable of deeper blacks and a higher pixels per inch count that make them appear less grainy on close inspection than an LCD. This isn’t to say the iPhone XR has a bad display, as Apple’s LCDs are excellent.
You can get the iPhone XS with a huge 512GB storage but this isn’t an option on the XR. To be honest, most people will be absolutely fine with the base storage option of 64GB.
Both phones have no headphone jack and support wireless and fast charging – but don’t come with a fast charger in the box. This is pretty galling given they cost between £749/$749 and £1,349/$1,349.
To add insult to injury neither phone comes with Apple’s £9/$9 headphone jack adapter in the box. You’ll have to buy one if you want to use your normal wired headphones, though both phones ship with wired EarPods with Lightning connector.
The cameras on each phone differ quite a bit. The dual 12Mp sensors on the iPhone XS are superior and both have optical image stabilisation. One of the lenses is for telephoto to allow 2x zoom, and for depth sensing.
But, in an Apple first, the single camera on the iPhone XR is capable or portrait mode bokeh effect photos thanks to improvements in Apple’s post-processing software. While not as advanced as on the XS, you’ll be able to take pretty great photos on the XR too.
Both phones have the True Depth front facing camera array for Face ID and Animoji.
The iPhone XR has better battery life than the XS thanks to its more energy-friendly LCD screen paired with a bigger battery capacity.
Software and apps
Right now the iPhone XS and XR both ship with iOS 12 preinstalled, the version of iOS that was released at the same time as them. This was a decent upgrade from iOS 11, improving notification interaction most noticeably and finally introducing group FaceTime.
Memoji also joins Animoji, allowing you to make a live reactive emoji of yourself to send to people on iMessage. It’s only available if you have an iPhone X, XS, XS Max or XR as these phones have the True Depth cameras on the front.
iOS 12 also adds battery health data in settings to see how you’re pounding it into the ground. There are no software differences between the two phones.
When iOS 13 launches in September (it’s currently available as a beta), the XS and XR will both be able to upgrade to it for free – indeed both will then have it preinstalled for anyone who buys them after that date.
If you’re after one of the late-2018 iPhones, the XR is the cheapest entry point. But at £749/$749, it’s still not exactly cheap. The colours are great, though, and it’s got a larger screen than the XS for less money.
But then, the XS is the smallest iPhone with the X design and this might appeal to you. And if you can afford £999/$999 then you’re getting better cameras and a better display.
It might come down to battery life, though, and the iPhone XR will last you longer thanks to the LCD display and bigger battery. We’d go for the iPhone XR unless you really need the dual cameras on the iPhone XS.
And of course, bear in mind that new iPhones will be unveiled in September 2019 – now is not a good time to buy.